Max Verstappen banked his first victory of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship season at Imola with a calculated, cool drive as Red Bull Racing Honda delivered on their impressive off-season.
The Dutchman managed to hold his nerve in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday that was red-flagged halfway through after a high-speed crash involving Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Briton George Russell.
I am of course very happy with this win for everyone in the Team and Honda. I think the key was of course the start as we had a great launch. I surprised myself as it was always hard to get off the line in the wet last year but we worked hard to try and improve that and it worked. The conditions were challenging out there, especially in the beginning and it was very hard to stay on track but we stayed out of trouble. I wouldn’t call it a dominant performance as Lewis was following me quite well and for him to come back to second after his incident means they have a lot of pace in that car.
We won because we made the right calls with tyres at the right time and the Team managed everything well in these conditions. With the tyres degrading, choosing the right moment to go onto slicks wasn’t easy but we got it right. I had a little moment at the re-start trying to warm up the tyres with some throttle but luckily we didn’t spin. We still have to work hard to improve because it’s very close, but for now, I’m very happy with the result. I’m looking forward to Portimão because it’s an amazing track and then we go to a track we all know well in Barcelona. We’ll see what we can do but so far, it’s been a good start to the year.”
The conditions out there were really difficult today and I made quite a few mistakes that were very costly. I struggled to retain any temperature in the tyres, so I lost it under the safety car and I got a 10-second penalty. It is of course important that I get used to the car and that I learn these lessons, but I messed up, I’m very disappointed in myself and really sorry to the Team. I think at the re-start the podium was ours and the pace of the car was good today, we should have finished one and two on the podium. Let’s focus on the next race now, we will work really hard as a team and come back stronger.”
It is fantastic for us to get the victory here today, particularly after losing such a close race in Bahrain. Max drove impeccably all afternoon with no mistakes and the Team made some perfectly timed pit stop calls, making this a thoroughly deserved victory and an important one for us. Max was pumped up for the race, with a great start giving him momentum down into Turn 1 where we saw two tough drivers pushing to the limit for track position which is what everyone wants to see. Lewis was still very quick today which could be seen particularly towards the end of the race when they seemed to have very low tyre degradation. I think they maybe had a quicker car than us today but it’s great to get that first victory of the season under our belts.
It was a real shame for Sergio after such a brilliant day yesterday and nothing went his way which is frustrating for him, but he’s becoming more and more comfortable with the car and you can guarantee that he will come back strong. Now we need to build on this momentum for the remainder of the season and we are going to have to go some way to keep Mercedes under pressure.”